The Raptors roll into Indiana for the second game of a home-and-home; they are 3-1 in these games, 2-0 in the second game. In the podcast, I called the Raptors to go 3-1 in the next week (with the loss coming to Philly), but am leery about the game tonight. Winning the second game of a back-to-back is normally very difficult. The opposing team has a chance to make adjustments and come at you with a totally different game plan.
What will the Pacers have to do to beat the Raptors?
Pray. Seriously though, they certainly have to play better defense than they did the other night. It’s virtually impossible to win when you let the other team shoot 60.2% from the field. That’s just despicable. But despite what you saw the other day and despite the way Bosh and Amir got all medieval on Indy in the paint in the first quarter, defense hasn’t usually been the problem so much as the team’s inability to score. As bad as I’m sure it sounds, that game wasn’t nearly as frustrating as many of the other losses I’ve watched this year. I don’t expect a team with Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and Roy Hibbert to be the 2004 Pistons or anything. And overall this year, Indy has been right around league average — often better — than the league average in opponents points per possession. I’m not sure how they do it, but teams don’t shoot that well against them. More often, the problem is just that they can’t keep up. Given their 43.3% shooting for the season (29th in the league, only above the Nets hard-to-believe 42.1%), it’s easy to see why they can’t score. But at home, against a Raptors team who I’ll just politely call “not intimidating,” it’s quite possible they get their jumpers to fall. If they can shoot at least 45% from floor, hit 11 or 12 threes and not turn the ball over too much, they can win.
Granger is an interesting player, he takes a lot of shots, and doesn’t seem to hit a high percentage. What are your thoughts on him?
He’s one of the best shooters in the league, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him this season. He has taken a lot of bad shots this season and gotten very few good looks. Given the problems I was discussing in the last answer, an off-balance three from Danny really isn’t even that bad of a shot for this team, honestly, but it’s still not a high-percentage look. In past years he has gotten his points as a “finisher.” He hits open jumpers on catch-and-shoot looks as well as anyone in the NBA, but he isn’t getting those this year as much. There is no one who drives and kicks. There usually isn’t enough good ball rotation to give him those 2-3 “there’s no one within 8 feet of him” threes per game that he knocks down in his sleep. He also isn’t getting many of those finishing buckets in the paint. The offense just doesn’t generate much of that stuff for anyone, let alone the one guy who defenses are gameplanning against. So he has to create open shots for himself off the dribble, which is something he is capable of but not elite at by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t Michael Redd and is probably even better at “getting his” than Antwan Jamison or Rashard Lewis, but he’s not the type of guy you can just clear out for and let go to work. And he is so often frustrated out there that he ends up just settling for contested jumpers. The fact that he’s been hurt all year (starting out with a gimpy knee then missing a month with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot) also hasn’t helped him evolve into a better penetrator/creator off the bounce.
Who poses a bigger problem for you guys defensively: Bosh or Bargnani?
Bosh. Jim O’Brien’s defensive system is OK giving up the three, so although it will suck if Andrea starts banging em, it won’t exactly shatter the game plan. But this roster has no one who can even consider guarding CB4. He’s probably going to dominate in the paint again — early and often.
Anything else you want to add?
Injuries have really taken their toll on the Pacers this year, which while far from the biggest issue with this team, should be taken into account when you mock them. By all means, mock them — they deserve it. But just know that the front court has been decimated over the past month without Jeff Foster (with serious and potentially season-ending back issues) and Tyler Hansbrough (who had shin issues early in the year followed by an inner ear infection that has left him unable play due to dizziness/vertigo). Those are two guys who the team expected to rely on for defense, rebounding, energy and all the in-the-paint, hard-hat stuff that Troy Murphy and Roy Hibbert simply can’t do. I’m not saying Tyler would have prevented that Jose-to-Amir alley oop the other night or all of Amir and Bosh’s other interior dominance, but it probably wouldn’t have been quite as bad.
This wont be an easy game by any stretch. You could tell the Pacers were missing Foster/Hansborough on Sunday, now with Foster gone for the season, defending Bosh in the paint becomes even more an issue. The Raptors need to work the inside-out game from the tip. Pound the ball into Bosh, let him draw the double, and kick out to Bargnani for a three. At the very least, he can get Pacers bigs in foul trouble one-by-one. Bargnani was so efficient on Sunday, I’d like to see him get 15-16 shots tonight.
Given how poorly Granger shot last game, you can expect him to pick it up a bit tonight. Wright will have his hands full, but he has given us great defense on the perimeter over the last few games against some of the best in the business. A full game battling with Granger should be interesting. If Wright just contests every shot, and keeps Danny’s efficiency down, even if he drops 30 it wont hurt the Raptors very much. I count on Grangers suspect shot selection.
With Turkoglu out, the game has been taken off the board; I imagine that the line would be tight regardless. I’m thinking along the lines of a two possession game, with the Raptors holding on for a win.